Community Development

November 1, 2008

Washer man in Madurai City

Filed under: 1 — Tags: , , , — cdmiss @ 12:01 pm

The extended class rooms for MSW students

My interest towards the marginalized communities is the result of my experience as supervisor for the fieldwork programme of Master of Social Work (MSW) students placed in Tamilnadu Theological Seminary’s “Labour and Peasant Center”(TTS-LPC) and IDEAS Institute of Development Education and Action Studies). I have seen with my own eyes how the seeds they have sown before two decades have grown into big trees and provided shadow and shelter to those who needed it. There are several instances, I sincerely attempted to remove the misconceptions about these agencies with some of my friends. I used to get sad with those of my students who were not serious with the works of these agencies and in fact shouted at them that their indifference amounts to urinating over a goldmine than to digout the precious metal there. But those genres of students who used the field work learning opportunities provided by these agencies are shining in the field of development. If TTS-LPC opened my eyes towards urban informal sector, IDEAS took me close to Arunthathiar community.
Why washer man?

The coordinators in TTS-LPC- Rev. Koil Pillai, Mrs. Nirmala Victus and Mr. Jawahar were source of encouragement to me and my students.It is a joy to spend time with them and their staffs during the supervisory visits.I hope that my wish to document the feedback of all my students who did their field work with these agencies may be materialized through this blog..Though there is a lot to write about the work of these agencies, I decided to share my observation about Washer man in Madurai City as a mark of my respect and regard to Miss. Vanitha (one of the good student we had) daughter of Sri. Chinnathambi who did washing when I was a student and then as a warden in our hostel during 70s. His honesty was remarkable and he handed over the students’ the money they forgot to take away from their clothes given for washing. It is this quality of honesty that makes the people to trust on the washer man. Is it not that people who get services from others like plumbers, mechanics, painters, domestic servants and street vendors always suspect them and watch them constantly. Though washer men also belong to the same category of poor, they are trusted upon by others and that make the people to handover clothes worth of thousands and thousands to the washer man and in turn washer man never betrayed our trust.

TTS & Washer man
I still remember the discussions carried out in TTS-LPC, when they thought of organizing a union for washer man of Madurai. Continuous interaction with the washer man subsequently during fieldwork took me to Aruldosspuram, popularly identified as a washer man colony and then to Vaigai River, their work spot,that gave me several wonderful insights about life and livelihood. At my request a student took a research project on washer man and I remember still vividly the time spend in Aruldosspuram and in Vaigai River.
For me research was an excuse to be with them. Personally it was not the outcome of the research, but the process and the clarity we got it from the attempt which was more important.
I feel that this post and the link to the work we did with washer man community is definitely not an attempt to share our work publicly but to gratefully acknowledge the how the seeds sown by (TTS-LPC & IDEAS) have grew.To be with the marginalized sector is not a fashion but of a commitment was a lesson we learnt from these agencies.

Though I was interested to continue my observation I could not do it for personal as well as my inability to inspire my students to continue it. But to be with the washer man will definitely give insights about the livelihood options pursued by our subaltern brethren. I don’t have any regret to put our observation that we did it a decade before rather I feel that our observation has not become obsolete and no one has brought out any document or made any fresh observation about the washer man in Madurai City – so this attempt is a mark of making fresh commitments.
If you feel that it is worthwhile to take few minutes to see the document to mark your concern for Madurai Washer man community, you are welcome and I consider it as a previlage

Washerman & Washing
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1 Comment »

  1. i read your article on washermen. excellent researched work. congratulations. i am too intreasted to know them more. can you please send me some more research meterial about them

    Comment by JOHN — October 17, 2010 @ 2:36 pm


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